The other day I came across an interesting post about applying problem solving methods as a way to improve guitar playing. Learning to play guitar is definitely something that presents us with many different problems, both small and large. I got to thinking a little about my own problem solving processes and how I applied them to learning guitar skills.
I think that an explicit method for recognizing and solving guitar playing problems is an excellent tool. It helps me to avoid aimless practice or playing stuff I already know to avoid a problem instead of making progress. Here's one simple process that I find helpful in lots of situations.
Step 1. Describe the problem
The first step is to identify just what problem you want to solve. Take some time to describe the problem you face or the thing you'd like to do next to get it clear in your mind.
I like to write down a description of the problem on paper, this helps me to think it through and identify what is really going wrong. You might find it helpful to record yourself and you practice and talk through the problem. Ask yourself what exactly goes wrong? What were you doing when the problem occurred? What does the problem feel like - do you have tensions or blockages in particular parts of the body?
Step 2. Brainstorm solutions
You'll probably find that you get ideas about how to solve the problem while you describe it, but don't just jump on the first one that pops into mind. Instead, take a little time to make a list of all the ideas that you could try to help you solve the problem.
Grab a pencil and paper and give yourself ten minutes to list all the ideas you can think of. New ideas can occur to you later on too, so keep your paper handy so you can easily add to your list; sometimes a good night's sleep brings fresh insight.
3. Pick and implement
All of that description and brainstorming won't actually solve any problems unless you turn ideas into action. Choose one or more ideas from step 2 and get to work to implement them.
The biggest trap at this stage is getting hung up worrying about choosing the "right", or "perfect", solution. Don't fall into this trap, use your best judgement or pick the idea that appeals most to you and get busy putting it to work. Taking some action is more important than waiting to find the perfect action.
The first idea you try might not get you all the way to the solution you want. This is no big deal, you've already learned more about your problem and discovered one idea that doesn't solve it. That's much better than if you'd done nothing. You also have some easy options to keep advancing towards a solution for your problem:
- Go back to the list of ideas from step 2 and put another one into action
- Revise your problem description in the light of what you learned and brainstorm some new ideas to work on.
Try it and See
Try this three step process next time you come across a guitar playing problem and see how it helps you to keep moving towards a solution instead of getting blocked. Let’s summarize the three simple steps:
1. Describe it - get a handle on what the problem really is
2. Brainstorm it - create solution ideas
3. Pick and implement – choose and idea and put it into action
Don't forget to feed back what you learn in step 3 to improve your problem description and generate more ideas to solve it.
What About You?
Do you have any favourite problem solving tips that have helped you to improve your guitar playing? Please use the comments link below to share them with us...
Photo by andrewmalone.